Chaos could follow Mugabe demise

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To complement the objectives of the extraordinary congress of 2007 as discussed last week (the main purpose of the congress was to affirm Mugabe as the party presidential candidate for 2008), the previously disgraced (and still apparently suspended) War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda organised a “Million Man March” in support of President Mugabe ahead of the congress.

Derek Matyszak, Constitutional expert and researcher

Although ostensibly a demonstration to show support for Mugabe, despite “Western powers opposition to his rule”, the real audience was obviously intended to be those within Zanu PF opposed to Mugabe’s candidacy.

Many of those opposed to Mugabe’s candidacy expressed their views through the ballot box in March 2008. In what was called Operation Bhora Musango (which basically means sabotage), many Zanu PF MPs were said to have encouraged their constituents to vote for the party in the parliamentary elections, but to withhold their vote from Mugabe in the presidential race. Mugabe blamed these “divisions” in the party for his defeat.

These fissures and dynamics were all apparent in the Zanu PF congress of December 2009,preceded once again by the death of vice-president Joseph Msika in August of that year.

Mugabe and the politburo initially sought to control the succession process by directing that only the three Matabeleland provinces should submit nominations for the vacant position of “Zapu” vice-president.  While this may have satisfied the Ndebele sector within Zanu PF still smarting at the imposition of the Zapu (but Zezuru) Msika, the division around the contentious issue of reserving two posts in the presidium for Zapu members emerged once more.

Violence broke out during the nomination process at some provincial coordinating committees (PCCs). Of the three, only the recently “purged” Bulawayo province agreed to nominate Mugabe’s preferred candidate, John Nkomo (Ndebele), for the post. The politburo was compelled to open up the process to all 10 provinces. This allowed the divisions that had characterised the Tsholotsho saga to re-emerge.

Midlands and Masvingo declined to immediately endorse the presidium preferred by the politburo, with Mugabe and vice-president Joice Mujuru (both Zezuru) retaining their posts and Nkomo and Simon Khaya Moyo (a Ndebele of Kalanga origin)) as vice-president and national chairman (to replace the elevated Nkomo), respectively.

Masvingo once again showed further recalcitrance by proposing that Oppah Muchinguri (a Manyika) replace Mujuru as a vice-president, but accepting the nomination of Nkomo and Kembo Mohadi (from Matabeleland South and a Venda with Sotho-Tswana roots under the broad Ndebele umbrella) as national chairman. The Manicaland and Mashonaland Central PCCs also defied the politburo by advancing Didymus Mutasa (a Manyika) as national chairman.

On account of these disputes and nervous of possible attempts to nominate alternate candidates from the floor, Mugabe summoned all PCC chairmen to Harare in an attempt to “whip them into line” before the congress. Masvingo and Mashonaland Central bowed to the political pressure and altered their nominations to reflect those of the other provinces. Manicaland stood its ground, refusing to rescind the nomination of Mutasa for the post of national chairman.

The recent disbanding of DCCs may also be viewed as part of the Tsholotsho leitmotif. Several analysts have suggested the dissolution was at the instigation of the Mujuru faction, which once again used the ruse of a constitutional amendment to undermine the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction whose supporters had won the majority of places on these committees.

Nominations to the Zanu PF presidium have to date been determined, in the face of considerable resistance, by a process of “guided democracy” on instructions issued by a politburo controlled by Mugabe. The question thus arises as to what will happen when the post to be filled is that of the “guide” — Mugabe himself.

Several scenarios suggest themselves.The first is that the democratic processes set out in the Zanu PF constitution and sidelined by Mugabe, will be reinvigorated and activated.

However, as noted above, these very processes have been altered significantly by Mugabe, who facilitated the constitutional amendment to change the provincial electoral colleges from the 44 member provincial executive committee to the 100-plus PCCS. Since these later committees are made up of several other elective bodies, those structures will need to be in place before a PCC can be said to be properly convened.

The costs and logistical difficulties of bringing such a large number of delegates together on short notice, and the legal complexities around the disbandment of the DCCs, may well present grounds for procedural objections, already as noted, a weak spot of this electoral process.

In view of these difficulties, a second scenario may arise where the central committee exercises its power to amend the Zanu PF constitution and establishes an expedited method of nomination.

Thirdly, the politburo may continue to arrogate to itself powers it does not have, as it has done under Mugabe, and direct the nomination procedure. In these latter two instances, none of these bodies is likely to speak with one voice and the process may be susceptible to legal challenge, or worse, extra juridical conflict.

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